It’s Time for Pete Stark to Retire; But Is There an Alternative?

By , May 5, 2012

Count me among the Democrats in U.S. Representative Pete Stark’s district who believe he should retire, and that if he doesn’t, we should vote him out of office to avoid further embarrassment. Unfortunately, his current challengers don’t appear very attractive.

At a public candidate forum, Stark repeatedly asserted that Eric Swalwell, his chief primary opponent, had accepted bribes, sought to dismantle unions, and hadn’t voted in recent elections. Stark repeated these personal attacks multiple times, despite repeated objections by the moderator. Stark’s campaign later issued a half-hearted “apology.”

All of Stark’s allegations appear to be completely unfounded. The kindest interpretation is that Mr. Stark is incompetent; the more plausible interpretation is that Mr. Stark is unethical and dishonest. No interpretation could justify my voting for Mr. Stark again.

I don’t know if Stark or his staff planned this, but of course many “neutral” Google searches for election information (using Stark’s and Swalwell’s names) now bring up the reckless bribery accusation in many of the first-page results.

I also can’t identify any accomplishments or actions by Mr. Stark, other than “serving as a loyal Democrat,” in the past decade. Don’t misunderstand me: I appreciate and agree with most of Mr. Stark’s votes. But we deserve more from our Representative in Congress.

Unfortunately, I’m struggling to decide whether there’s a viable alternative. Both challengers, Eric Swalwell and Chris Pareja, seem more focused on attacking Mr. Stark than offering positive ideas.

To his credit, Mr. Pareja, now in his second run against Stark, clearly states his positions on most important issues. It took only a few minutes to verify that Mr. Pareja, although self-identified as Independent, is really a “Tea Party Republican,” whose views are antithetical to mine.

Mr. Swalwell is a Democrat, but I haven’t been able to identify his positions on most issues. Health care isn’t even mentioned on Pareja’s web site, though I was slightly comforted to see, in a candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters, that Swalwell said he supported the Affordable Care Act (“ObamaCare”), including the “individual mandate.” However, he’s still an “unknown,” with very limited political experience.

As you’d expect, Stark is endorsed by nearly all current and recent statewide office holders in the San Francisco Bay Area, with the notable exception of former Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher (Swalwell briefly worked in her Washington office; she hasn’t endorsed either candidate).

Note: After the 2010 census, the boundaries of California’s congressional districts were changed; my home and Mr. Stark’s, along with about half of the area of the previous 13th Congressional District, are now part of the 15th Congressional District.

3 Responses to “It’s Time for Pete Stark to Retire; But Is There an Alternative?”

  1. Rick Klau says:

    Hey Mark – I’m also a dem living in the district (San Ramon). After looking at Stark’s record and being entirely unimpressed, I reached out to the Swalwell campaign to learn more about Eric. I’ve gotten to know Eric over the last couple months and am impressed with his commitment to the district, and they’ve been good about adding more to the issues page here:

    That said, happy to put you in touch with the campaign if there’s more you’re interested in learning. Of the 3 candidates, I believe Eric is by far the best option for the district in November.

  2. Mark Welch says:

    Rick, I’ve been to the Swalwell campaign site, but unfortunately his “issues” page doesn’t include many issues (just four broad categories: “Economy,” “Education,” “Mobile Congress,” and “National Defense & Vets”), and those pages contain mostly vague rhetoric. His “Other Issues” page is “Coming Soon.”

    As I mentioned, “health care” isn’t mentioned at all on Swalwell’s web site, nor can I find any reference to Wall Street or regulation of the financial industry. All I see is vague rhetoric.

    I don’t want to just talk privately with Mr. Swalwell or his campaign staff; I’m not interested in hearing people say what they think I want to hear. I want to know what Mr. Swalwell puts “on the record” as his position on important issues.

    If I like what I learn about Mr. Swalwell, I might actually volunteer to participate in phone banks and walk precincts to replace an incumbent (as I did in the Tauscher campaign in 1994).

  3. Mark Welch says:

    I noticed today that Mr. Swalwell’s page for “Other Issues” now identifies his positions on several more issues, including the Affordable Care Act, gay marriage, the Violence Against Women Act, and more.

    I am troubled by his mischaracterization of the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, and his flippant dismissal of First Amendment free-speech rights in that case. Both Mr. Swalwell and I were disappointed with the outcome in that case, but perhaps for slightly different reasons.

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